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UNDP Press Briefing at Habitat II

Joan Veon transcribed

Mr. Biegman

It is a pleasure to set Habitat perspective a little bit, how UNDP looks upon both the conference as such as more particularly on the follow-up and the reason why we organized this conference is to really stress a few things.

First of all the really unique role of UNDP within the UN system. We have 137 country offices all over the world and it is in these country offices that much of the preparation s of the conference at country level have been originated. We have tried to assist governments, local authorities, NGO's and so on and so forth to prepare and we have done that with very close cooperation with the Habitat secretariat.

Secondly, we have a mandate from the UN and from the governments to try and coordinate follow- up activities in particular at the local level. So whatever is going to happen after Habitat II in terms of follow-up, we must assume responsibility. Thirdly, we have as an organization, identified a few key areas where we think we should concentrate our efforts. As you know, we are a grant giving organization and our yearly budget is $2B US dollars and it is fair to say that in the past, and this goes for Development cooperation in Vienna, we have paid too little attention to the specific problems of cities. I hope in the future that we will be able to mobilize more resources and do more constructive things. Let me at the outset say the following: Human Development should always be the end for all our activities and economic growth in these countries should be the means. The purpose of growth must always to be to improve people's life. But quite often we know that this is not the case. Recently experience show that there is no automatic link between growing economies on one hand and quality on the other. Growth is important but it is not sufficient. What we have to be more concerned about in the future, and this is really important, if we are going to succeed to make cities more liveable is to look at the structural growth and the quality growth. To go from quantative perspective to qualitative perspective. This is very, very important or very important lessons that important lessons from the past. If you look at cities economic activities are growing and GDP worldwide more than almost 60% of GDP worldwide takes place in cities but at the same time, we can see and experience day by day that poverty is on the increase and pollution is a very dominating problem.

So what we try to advocate not only for cities but for the world is another kind of development which is not only concerned with growth and presupposes that sort of automatically that all the other aspects of life will come about. Rather to look for development which is pro-poor, pro-jobs, pro-gender--women and pro-environment. We are absolutely sure about one thing, unless we change our focus and try to bring about consistency between economic growth on one hand, social development and environment on the other, the problems of cities will continue to rise. Because of population and migration to cities.


Habitat deals specifically with the urban poor, environmental issues and with management issues. On all these accounts, we have very clear policies to offer: Firstly, advice, guidance, upstream dialogue with governments and will local governments, very much concentrating on capacity building. Very often, governments and local governments, they lack competency and capacity to identify problems, formulate and implement strategies.

Second level of intervention is pilot projects, demonstration projects. We know about the problems, but we also know how important it is to demonstrate that things work and to show that various alternative schemes really are manageable. Third level of intervention is promotion of human rights, not only political rights, but social and economic rights and we see these as very, very important for UNDP. WE publish the Human Development Report and also by country and which looks at development, not only how much income but education, literacy, health, environment. Fourthly, we try to act as a bridge-builder, as a catalyst between different actors. The agenda is focusing on the role of civil society on one hand and the role of the private sector. Now in order to involve both civil society and the private sector, very often, in the least developed countries, it is important to assist governments to develop growth strategies. The role of government is very important both at national level and local level. There is a tendency to believe that if we release and liberate the forces of the market, things will just happen . We know this is not the case. We don't think the role of the government should be reduced. We think that the role of the government should be changed and there is a great difference. We believe in privatization, but only under a regulatory framework where the government or the local government has set up some rules for behavior and what concerns that have to be addressed. We will, and we simply have to, concentrate on the least developed countries because if you look at accessibility of capital and investments, there is very little direct foreign investment channelled to the least developed countries. We believe development Cooperation has a very important role to play in many years to come otherwise these countries will be left behind. We will give specific focus on the new technologies--specifically information technologies to try to help LDC's to have chronic activity otherwise they will be excluded from these activities.


When we look more specifically at poverty, what can we do? Our role is to try to give advice to governments on how to implement the Copenhagen Social Summit Agenda. How to develop strategies fro the reduction and elimination of poverty. We are working with more than 170 countries to help them to do so...we will give particular emphasis on women, as you know, the majority of the poor are women but because men and women use the city environment quite differently and have different needs....

Second level of information is to provide the poor with matter when you talk about cities or rural, most poor people apart from lack of water, sanitation, housing, what they really lack are credit. It is almost important to start self-employment activities. Banking for the poor really works and we have taken it upon ourselves to contribute to start up such very, very small scale local initiatives banking of the poor.

Third, is to give local governments advice on how to run cities. That is to say, how to de-centralize and bring about participation. We have two specific parallel programs---on the one hand, our urban management program again with the Habitat Secretariat and the Life Program. The Urban Management Program is running in 30 countries and the Life Program is in 14 countries and we deal with environmental issues, governance issues, city finance, poverty and infra-structure and again, it is capacity, assisting local governments to deal with these issues. Let me, after these very brief comments move to the environment.

We had a seminar on eco-technologies and one conclusion is that we could use the illustration of "foot print" how city economic activities have an effect on the rural landscape and it is very important to remember the strong link between the rural areas and the cities..&.also for the city to dispose of its waste materials in the rural areas. For example, London, needs an enormous land area to get the resources it needs and secondly, to dispose of all the waste materials. London, with 10% of the total population of Britain, they need the whole productive land areas of Britain to do this so their input-/output equation is not what it should be.

Our conclusion is that present policies in terms of growth are not viable, no sustainable, we have to encourage other technologies, in particular in cities, energy-water and waste management. Those technologies which are not so polluted but very often they are not used, often because we don't have the right incentives or information. We need an "efficiency revolution" in how we use water, energy and how we treat waste materials. WE have taken it upon ourselves to try to promote ecologically sound technologies particularly in city areas.

We will do it through public-private partnerships where we bring together private companies which have the technologies and the public agencies and try to act as a bridge builder and catalyst. We hope in the coming five to ten years to start 50 at least very concrete projects in energy, water and wast management in different parts of the world, using them as good examples and then building on them. We don't have the money to invest in those technologies, but we believe that our role very much could be the catalyst.

Thirdly, we are very much involved in general capacity building through a program called "Capacity 21" with regards to environmental understanding and awareness. We have launched in connection with the Rio Conference two specific activities aiming at involving and stimulation civil society organizations--Asia 2000 and Africa 2000.

...consistency between Growth, social development and environmentally policies. To do that requires wise policies at the government level and the local level. We are absolutely confidentially more and more governments and cities will recognize the need for this and will be partners in those endeavors.


Male: In the context where you are talking about pilot and demonstration program, you made the comment "we know how things work," it sounds as if you already know how things work and don't need these conferences....explain..pilot and demonstration program--bridge-building...

Answer: When it comes to poverty, we are still trying to develop the right kind of strategies. Unless you target the poor, no matter how fast your economy is growing those people have a tendency to be left behind...when it comes to environment and technologies, we know there are technologies in most areas which are by far more efficiency than the present one.

JV Question: How long has the UN been working on sustainability--- and how many pilot programs does UNDP have--Africa 2000 and Asia 2000, how many different types. With regard to the Habitat document, as I have read it very closely, a number of statements of transfer of wealth--various examples of how that will be accomplished...

Answer: We launched most of our activities in relation to sustainable develop and the environmental dimension shortly before or after Rio, most accurate answer. I believe, as has been the case, to really integrate environmental concern into everyday life, it requires a lot of de-learning and rethinking...I would submit that still today, many of my colleagues, I am coming from the environmentalist side, most of my colleagues have trouble to fully integrate. We are moving. Specifically on water, we have spent alot of on water projects, both together with the World Bank and other donors and of course, with local governments but also loans. What has been missing is the following: first of all, these projects have been too sectoral--they have looked at water as a sectoral issue. If you look at water, it is not a sectoral issue, you have to take into account, a number of sectors to effectively deal with it. We have not had the link between fresh water/sweet water and the while problem when you approach the

coastal area and the marine environment. They must be dealt with together. Thirdly, water very often, partly as a consequent of UNDP has been subsidized or it has not been priced at all and that in the long term is not possible. You have to charge some type of a price. In particular, the rich and well off, they benefit from all the subsidiaries when it comes to water, energy , etc. So what we are tying to do is to stop dealing it as a sector issue and to how we can promote conservation. Water scarcity is increasing and pollution of water is also increasing. Water as an example, in the field of energy, we have had great difficulties to look upon energy as a supply--to produce more, but to look at it not so much as kilowatt hours in a lamp, but at the service we need. There are much more efficient technologies have energy strategies integrated in India and China which are the most important countries when it comes to change the policy of these countries into more sustainable direction.

Altogether we have several thousand projects but have many, many hundreds NGO's involved in all over the world in different poverty and environment related activities. Transfer of wealth, maybe we can come back to that one, it is pretty difficult and no short answers.

Q: Define the most important follow-up activities --to translate to national follow up:

A. To try to continue to develop strategies to reach the poor, in urban and country areas. We will have to share information between countries. Secondly, expand our program of de-centralization. To assist governments to de-centralize from the national government to the local level and develop participatory methods so that local governments in the future can involve the citizens of the cities and various settlements more fully in the process. The time of top-down approach is over, we have to go to bottom up. Then we have to learn how to organize participation.

Thirdly, environmentally sound technologies--water, energy, waste and sanitation. It is an absolute must and we are struggling hard to find the right means and mechanisms. Partnerships between us, public sector authorities and private companies is a very realistic way to go about it. Fourthly, I would submit that our work on global level, more integrate approach to develop, has to continue--the promotion of human rights--social-economic rights.

We hope within a year to get all of our offices on Internet and then ...try to set up community centers whereby people can come and use it...

A. UNDP is now giving instruction to our offices and governments that if we are going to do activities with you, they have to relate very strongly to our approach to development where environment, then waste disposal is a very important area. We have during this week, had a seminar on Eco-technologies...

Joan Veon interviewed a key individual who works with UNDP, Squito Parr after the above press briefing:

Comment from Squito:

UN conferences--Churchill "better to have a lost of blah, blah, blah, than boom, boom boom."

The kind of work we are doing here is a reminder that UN global conferences set norms, standards, values, goals and I think that we cannot forego these things and we will remember these things."

Saquito Par-

Q: Mr. Biegman - examples of transfer of wealth techniques that the UN will use to accomplish some of the transfer from the North to the south.

Parr. Not speaking about terminology in agenda. The disparities between the rich and poor have been growing both within countries and what you find is that because a number of developing countries growing fast...there is a whole large number of developing countries which have been left out and are getting furtherr and further left behind.

Ways to Transfer Wealth, there is:

(1) aid

(2) increasingly about private resource flows

(3) trade

One of the problems is that for those countries falling behind, it is not easy to catch up.

JV: Aid, out right gift, increase private resource-resource flow and trade--Gatt?

A. Yes, trade between developed and developingcountriess.

JV: I was as the Money Matters II conference--I had determined by January, one of the source

of money was mutual funds. That's what Money Matters was about. Has there been any agreement with various mutual fund companies to assist in this area. I felt that it was an introductory conference and other than Fidelity funds who appears to be a player--such as Wellingtonn, Keystone, it was new territory for them.

A. I was also there, but also partially. What I understand is that the conference ended with a specific decision to go forward with an initiative. You will have to ask someone who is directly involved as to where they are. I think you are also right that this still is in the first exploration stage and many new initiatives do take incredible time to get off the ground and it does not mean that they wont'. I want to comment that much of my experience has been with Africa and my concern is how you get resource flows to those counties. It is not that hard to convince to private investors to invest in the Philippine, etc. There are 15 countries getting the lion's share of trade. Less than 1% is going to Africa.

JV: It looks like over $100B of which 85% going to China, Mexico, then ARgentina and then Thailand. So already there is a lot of money form mutual funds. I was interested in innovated mutual funds projects.

Human Development REPORT 96 - July - 1996

Q. Reforms with regard to reforms of UN from Human Development Report 94?




Q. Definition of "globalization"

A. The increasing inter-dependence that goes from increased preponderence of economic trade, that is economic integration and in terms of integrated cultural flows, and so forth. There is a lot more movement of people. It is all of this global inter-dependence which is driven by liberal trade arrangements. My concern is that it is a tremendous force to expand the world economy and I conclude that this is going to be a major force for expanding the global economy.